The Family Court has given a mother permission to take her daughter on holiday to China.
In JXN (A Child), the Chinese born mother has lived in the UK for 12 years. She became a British citizen in 2010.
She sought permission to take her daughter, identified as ‘J’ in the judgment, to China in order to visit her family. J’s father opposed the application.
Although the mother had taken the child to China several times before, this would be the first visit since her relationship with the father had broken down.
Following the end of their relationship, the father was concerned that the mother would take J away from him permanently. The mother had previously removed J, and J’s passport, from the home without telling him.
A district judge subsequently issued a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) against both parents. A PSO is usually issued against one parent. It forbids them from carrying out certain events or taking certain trips without the permission of the other parent.
In this case, the PSO forbade both parents from taking J out of the UK. The PSO also stipulated that J’s passport be released by solicitors if one of the parents wished to take the child on holiday. This would not happen if the other parent submitted a written objection to the planned holiday.
As a result, the case was brought before the Family Court where the mother formally applied for permission to take J to China. She claimed one of the reasons for her application was that it was increasingly difficult for her family to visit her in the UK since her father became very ill.
She added that she had no intention to remove J from the UK. She said that she had a good job, a house and a new relationship. She said that she had settled in the UK and that J “is British and is settled in this country”.
The father was still concerned about the possibility of abduction. This was heightened by the fact that China is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The convention is a multinational treaty which provides a fast method of returning a child who has been abducted by a parent and taken to another country. It only applies if both the nation the child was taken from and the one they were taken to are signatories.
Mr Justice Baker heard the application, and considered the decision of Lord Justice Patten in Re R . Lord Justice Patten said that cases which involved the temporary removal of a child to a non-Convention country contained three elements that had to be considered:
- The magnitude of the risk of the removal becoming permanent.
- The magnitude of the consequences if that should happen.
- The level of security that can be achieved through safeguards.
Mr Justice Baker said that the risk of abduction and permanent relocation to China was “negligible” as the mother had established a life for herself in the UK. With that in mind, he granted permission for the holiday.
The judge then turned to the issue of J’s care in general. He called it a case “which cries out for mediation”. The parents agreed to attend mediation in order to come to an arrangement regarding their daughter’s best interests.